Let’s try to concentrate on the little things

I had planned to offer some thoughts on the topic of Acceptance today, but that idea got too deep too fast. It seemed better to post something to help lighten our mood. But what?! Lighthearted topics don’t come easily in the current environment. The weather isn’t helping; it’s hotter than blazes, even here in the northeast. The world seems to be unraveling before our eyes as it tries to cope with a global pandemic and the resulting social and economic challenges. The virus is running the show, and not everyone is dealing with it as responsibly as one might hope. Continuing to read about it, write about it, and tear one’s hair out about it hasn’t been helping much. But choosing a topic that doesn’t feed our angst and yet doesn’t trivialize our situation isn’t  an easy task.

Then I happened upon a Globe and Mail article I had saved from last summer entitled ‘It’s time to seek joy in missing out’.  I had forgotten about it, safely hidden away in my stash of ‘possible blog ideas’. I had also completely forgotten about the acronyms FOMO (fear of missing out, which apparently is what most people relate to) and JOMO (joy of missing out) described in the article. When my younger son proclaimed back in April  that as an introvert he was embracing JOMO during this time of isolating at home, he had to explain it to me. There can indeed be joy in missing out, especially for those of us who often crave some alone time.

It was the phrase “seeking joy” in the title that drew me to the article. We need some joy these days. I know I do. Some simple joy will do. Small doses. Stopping to watch the birds and butterflies. Watching a small child take her first steps or a young boy’s delight as he masters his first solo ride on a two-wheeler. Watching parents biking with their kids. Watching an ancient episode of “As Time Goes By” with your husband for the millionth time and laughing together just as much as during the first viewing. Listening to whatever music stirs your soul and puts a smile on your face. These are the simple things that can warm our hearts. We just have to stop and let them.

In the ‘seeking joy’ Globe article, author Harvey Schachter lists Bronnie Ware’s the top five regrets people have when dying:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

He suggests that these points are the ones we should prioritize in our lives, instead of worrying about meeting other people’s expectations or being fearful of not being faster, stronger, more popular, more successful, or richer. All we should ever have a fear of missing out on are pretty well captured in the five points above. We don’t want those points to become our regrets as well. Instead, we should take joy in discarding our fear of missing out on all the rest and the pressure we put on ourselves in the name of getting ahead. In the greater scheme of things they don’t matter.

It dawns on me that all five of these points are ones that we can work on and build experiences around while we are staying safe and social distancing. While we are not able to travel where we might otherwise be traveling. While we are at home instead of out at plays or concerts.  While we should not be having large in-person gatherings. Thanks to technology, we can reach out to those who are important to us these days without even leaving our homes. We can find the time to pause and think about what’s really important to us. We can remind ourselves of what truly makes us happy, and then make sure that we allow that to happen. We can think about how to carry through with that plan as the world slowly – very slowly – reopens.

Remember, it’s the little things that make up the sum of our lives. During these turbulent times, let’s take the time to recall and cherish the little things that have made the difference so far.


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34 Responses to Let’s try to concentrate on the little things

  1. jane tims says:

    I am so fortunate. I am an introvert, so being at home and not going out a lot is easy for me. I am also lucky to be with my husband every day so I always have good company. Having said that, I am afraid of missing out, on being known to the writing community, for example. I have found social media helpful to me in one way: I stay in touch. But I have also found social media to be quite harmful in the following way: I spend too much time searching for the answer to an unstated question. Sometimes I think the question is Why? sometimes How do we fix this? Instead of spending time on social media, I think concentrating on little things might be an answer. For example, spending my time in appreciation of my house plants (and actually watering them in the process). What a plan.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for your observations, Jane. We are similar wrt comfort level at mostly staying home. Have there been any Zoom meetings of writing groups? Some groups that have continued with virtual meetings have found them pretty satisfactory, certainly compared to not having those interactions at all. I noticed that there are going to be a few days of virtual Word Feast starting on Sept 23 or 24 (wordfeast.ca). It’ll be interesting to see how effective that is. I like your intentional approach to getting your plants watered!

  2. Pingback: A healthy world to come – Immanuel Verbondskind – עמנואל קאָווענאַנט קינד

  3. Thank you Jane and you are right it is difficult not to write about what we are experiencing right now in our world. We all just need those little breaks and moments where we smile and fill our souls with peace. I just got back from a mini trip up north to the country and was shocked to hear what our friends and neighbors had to say about what was going on in their world. They are hardly effected by what the pandemic is creating in the cities. Nothing has changed for them. They told us to come up more, stay longer, hang out with the crickets and watch the sunset and rise. In the country surround by life and quiet the world never changes. I might take them up on it in August because it is so true…those little things are what mean the most. Have a beautiful week Jane and you and yours stay safe out there. We will get through this, one beautiful day at a time.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I’m glad you got this break to fill your soul with peace, LRH. I live in a part of the world not terribly different from what you describe. In our province (pop. 770,000) we’ve only had 169 cases and 2 deaths. We’ve been able to have our borders closed to other provinces as well as Maine, which of course has made all the difference. But this can’t last. We’ll have to open up. And most of us are pretty cautious, still mostly staying home, definitely wearing masks, etc. But we’re plugged into all the news, and it’s pretty shocking. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to have to confront all that divisiveness with people I know and care about who think differently than I do. It’s staggering to contemplate. So take peace and quiet wherever you can find it. You have a place to go and a never-list of interests. God speed. As you say, one beautiful day at a time.

  4. somekindof50 says:

    Ah love this Jane – A post after my own heart.. and such a important message in troubled times. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Olivia says:

    It really is the little things that make the sum of our lives. Life is about experiences! 😊

  6. Small doses indeed, Jane. I appreciate the spirit of your message here. My wife and I often jokingly mock someone in our life who constantly says, “Look around you” in an attempt to find the positive. This person is right, of course, but the repetition of that message can numb when heard too often. Nevertheless, I enjoyed your many examples. Just last night we watched an old episode of Keep Up Appearances that I’m sure we’ve seen probably ten times. We still laughed hard. It’s good to have healthy diversions; thanks for the reminder. – Marty

  7. I love the post and I think we all need to encourage all the people in our life to “enjoy the little things”!! Love you Jane!!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Rita, and the feeling is mutual, as I hope you know. And I think you’re very good at appreciating the little things in life … that’s really what life is all about. ❤️

  8. My daughter lives in Brooklyn, so I can relate to what DM wrote about her friend. Back when the pandemic was at its peak in the city, we would hear siren after siren in the background as we talked to her. You can bet we wished she were in Maine with us. However, what we have all done is adapt to the situation. Our phone conversations aren’t all misery, even though we won’t be seeing each other for at least a year. We’ve come up with a virtual film festival for the whole family. My other daughter has a Zoom account. We each get to pick a movie, which we’ll watch one night and discuss it the next. Fun in this time of the coronavirus. 😉

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Brooklyn and Maine, terrific contrast! I suppose it’s not so different from us in New Brunswick and our kids in central Toronto and Ottawa. And we won’t be able to see them again before next summer either. I love the idea of having a family movie night using Zoom. WE should try a game night sometime with our kids and grandkids, I’m pretty sure we’d have a hard time agreeing on a movie to watch, ranging in age from 3 to much, much older! So, acceptance and adaptation is the answer. This may be a way to make my Acceptance blog post idea less dark. Thanks for these thoughts, Laurie.

  9. Hi Jane. Thanks for writing this, as it did give me cause for reflection. I too am somewhat of an introvert, so the isolation is not as jarring for me as it is for many. For me it’s been more of the loss of freedom of choice, as well as curbing my volunteering where I physically interact with others. Thankfully my online volunteering was at times hectic, as I help provide professional development for teachers, and the movement to online teaching spiked the demand for training.

    The thing I reflected on the most was your title, as I realized there were times when I chose not to concentrate, whether it was for a moment or a period of time. I have learned to forgive myself for the times when I didn’t have much drive to concentrate, or achieve things, including writing my own blog. Given that volunteering and traveling where my main interests before the pandemic, I hope that some sense of normalcy will inevitably return in my life. I’m not ready to concentrate on reinventing my retirement life 🤨

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What an interesting reflection, Francine. Yes, losing our drive or our passion for what is usually important to us is a common and understandable outcome of this strange period of social isolation. Even for us introverts, and I am definitely one of them, losing the part of our routine that provides our human interaction has to have a significant effect. Gosh, this would have hit you in particular because you wouldn’t have been able to do any far-away housesitting. OMG, the question ‘where on earth is Francine’ has become temporarily moot! I am quite sure it is only temporary and that in another year you’ll be back traveling. You may have to restrict your travels to Canada initially, but that will mean embracing winter! 😉

  10. LA says:

    Great post. I have been concentrating on little things, but sometimes it’s hard. The early days of the pandemic were depressing, demoralizing and gut wrenching. I talked my feelings out like I normally do. I got some crap from people because I should be happy to be alive….I resented the term “we’re all in this together” because we weren’t. But, I had no problem with people who wrote about good things, because other people writing good things kept me going. Now that nyc is opening a little I see my mood shift and I’m getting back to normal. I know I’m all over the place, but we should all just allow ourselves and each other the ability to feel….but also keep our eye on the prize

    • DM says:

      LA, I have appreciated your posts, because it did help me have some sense of life in the Big Apple. My friend that lives in Brooklyn, on the other hand has had her hands full just trying to stay sane. You’re spot on when you say we “should just allow ourselves and each other the ability to feel.” DM

      • LA says:

        If people are happy, others complain, sad, others complain, depressed others complain…it’s a vicious cycle of everyone trying to be themselves

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. Your posts have “helped” make the surreal situation in NYC real for me. As a lifelong NYC lover, the sight of continuing empty streets is heartbreaking. The one upside is that NYC and surrounding areas did lead the pack in having to deal with something entirely outside ANYONE’S experience and have gotten under control (knock on wood). Would that other parts of the country would follow that lead of really closing down. You are so right that we aren’t all in this together, big time. I am so aware of that living where we do, and with both of our kids having been able to work from home where they live. I’d be more optimistic about keeping our eyes on the prize if I saw more people accepting the reality that this virus is everywhere, just waiting. Whoops, I am heading back to the dark side. Little things, little things! 😉

  11. conover1310@gmail.com says:

    I enjoyed that!….Bel

    Sent from my iPad


  12. DM says:

    Yep, part of what you said, describes what’s also in my head, “But choosing a topic that doesn’t feed our angst and yet doesn’t trivialize our situation isn’t an easy task.” …compounded by a message I got last week from a long time friend/ reader of my blog. (She lives in the thick of things in Brooklyn) ..from March until just a few weeks ago, she felt like she has been living on another planet than myself. When she would read my updates on Facebook, it was surreal to her…she was neck deep in sirens, semis parked in neighborhoods with coolers ready for dead bodies…on and on and on,…and I was posting about chickens, honey bees, gardening, stuff,etc. only in the past week was she @ a place where she felt free to say how she was honestly doing…meanwhile, I myself am living in a bubble of relative normalcy..so I’ve second guessed virtually everything, when I’ve felt the stirring to write…Things are relatively normal where we live..we’ve only had one reported case of someone passing away from the virus. and eve his case, it was not cut and dried…I work outside, been busy with my work from mid March on…. I do savor the the little things..this post totally resonates with me. Looking @ that list of things older people regret, I am thankful. Can honestly say, none of them really apply. I’ve seen that list before and made allowances. Take care . DM

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for this, DM. Wow, what a comparison, especially in these scary times, Brooklyn and rural Iowa! Yes, we’re in a situation similar to yours (2 deaths and 169 cases in a province of 750,000 with no large cities). Everyone is super careful and tense just the same, but without the shell-shock. We also don’t have the political angst, but since it’s pretty well the only news, it still pervades all. DM, not only do I know you understand the importance of this advice for living, each and every one of your posts reflects that reality! 😊 Stay safe in Iowa!

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